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Forest officials involved in logging, villagers say

Communities living in the protected Snuol wildlife sanctuary in Kratie province said yesterday that the sanctuary was being destroyed by private companies acting in collusion with local wildlife officers.

Snuol forest community representative Mom Sakim said private interests were claiming large areas of the sanctuary without any intervention from authorities, despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s moratorium on land concessions and promise to title villagers’ land.

“The destruction is due to a conspiracy with Kong Ngim, the director of Snuol wildlife sanctuary, who turns a blind eye to those people and allows them to clear the land,” she said.

Ngim could not be reached yesterday.

“When the Ministry of Environment made our three village communities a conservation area [in 2003], there was a lot of forest, but now . . . [it] is being destroyed by the rich,” she said, identifying Vietnamese companies Binh Phuoc Kratie Rubber 1, Binh Phuoc Kratie Rubber 2 and Eastern Rubber (Cambodia) as the culprits.

These three firms were ordered by Hun Sen last June to stop logging some 85 per cent of ELCs they possesed in the neighbouring Seima Protection Forest that remained evergreen or semi-evergreen forest.

Chay Samith, director of the Ministry of Environment’s national conservation and protection department, said he was too “busy” to speak yesterday.

Chhim Savuth, a senior investigator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told the Post yesterday he had seen swathes of land deforested by companies and ELC concessionaires in Snuol district, adding that in his experience illegal logging can always be traced back to forestry administration officials.

“Actually, if there is no conspiracy with expert officers, the crimes cannot happen. We only have the law, but no one follows it,” he said.

The sanctuary, protected by a royal decree, is one of the 10 largest wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

In April, more than 100 Snuol district villagers patrolled the forest and were reportedly threatened with violence by authorities after they burned logged timber they found.

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